Mount Abu Lashu, Tsangpo River
Mount Abu Lashu at the northernmost point of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the terminus of the team's paddling journey.

Tsangpo Dispatch—March 7, 2002

Mount Abu Lashu, Tsangpo River
Allan Ellard

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Pelung, Tibet We have made it to Pelung. Two days of hiking, two cable crossings, and two bridges after leaving Tsachu, we are at a road. There are vehicles, houses, and people. The small shops carry beer, candy, biscuits, and Coke. The guys are sinking beer like it has gone out of fashion.

Mount Abu Lashu, Tsangpo River

Mount Abu Lashu, Tsangpo River Mount Abu Lashu at the northernmost point of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the terminus of the team’s paddling journey.

It has been 33 days since we first put on the river—over a month in Tsangpo Gorge and we have been more than 100 percent successful in our aims. We paddled all of the realistically paddleable whitewater in the upper and lower sections of the river and we safely made our way through the gorge. Our ground team made their way to the legendary waterfalls the inner gorge and observed an area rarely viewed by any man.

I am completely exhausted. Scott Lindgren, Mike Abbott, Ken Storm, and I sit in a small fire-heated back room, sipping beer. We have been running over the stories that jump to mind and contemplating the journey as a whole. Smiles reach from ear to ear and I think everyone is in shock, actually realizing that that is it—no more hiking, beating the trail through thick uncut forest. No more portaging. And unfortunately, no more incredible whitewater.

The Sherpas are as happy and smiley as they have been the entire trip. When we ask them about the expedition, they try to explain that it has been harder than some of the Everest treks they’ve done. While there was no serious altitude to deal with, the continuous climbing and descending and having to cut the trail with no obvious way to follow proved incredibly taxing. Yet they are intuitive and in-tune with the environment around them—they would find the way easier than the locals and would always reach camps in front of everyone.

We are only two days drive from Lhasa. Once the Avalanches arrive, we will head over a pass to Bayi, the town from which we headed to the put-in point all that time ago.

Things are coming full circle and it remains a wonder to me that we have had no serious injuries given we started down the gorge with over 80 people and still had 30 or so porters on the last days. No one fell off any of the precarious trails, and on the river there have been very few occasions where we were out of control or had potential disasters. This is due to an awesome show of teamwork and understanding. Granted there have been continuous communication problems and a cultural gap with the porters and locals we have encountered, but that is a huge part of the trip itself. Many of us have been traveling in Himalayan regions for a number of years and I think I can say that this area of Pemako has brought new experiences for everyone.

I now look forward to reaching Lhasa, finishing up loose ends, and making our way back to the USA. The journey has been recorded from every angle and the difficult job of editing and portraying accurately the real adventure will continue. But I cannot wait to get my film developed, see the video footage, and sit in a bar telling wild stories of this incredible place.